Joseph Smith and Social Power

Topics: Joseph Smith, Jr., Religion, God Pages: 14 (5546 words) Published: May 13, 2013
Since its start, the Mormon religion has been a controversial religion. This paper is not a debate but simply an analysis of how Joseph Smith was successful in establishing a new religion and did so by using social power. Religion has and always will be a touchy subject for most people. Some are firm believers in their religious view, while others feel that all religion is nonsense. Regardless of the feeling, it is undeniable that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, was extremely profitable and was able to introduce an entirely new idea and convince people it was the right idea. Some argue that Joseph Smith was a con artist (Broadhurst, 2009) while the people who follow the Mormon religion view him as the “Chosen One”. Although it may be true that Joseph Smith did not actually receive the visions he claimed to have had, he was able to convince people that he did. That is the most important aspect, the ability to convince individuals. Joseph Smith used his charismatic character to successfully implement the theory of social power in order to gain followers. The theory of social power claims that by the use of one or all of the bases (expert power, legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, and referent power) an individual will have the ability to change the behavior of targeted individuals or a group of individuals (French & Raven, 1959, 261). In the film, Joseph Smith: The Prophet of Restoration, Joseph Smith Jr’s life is revealed to its audience. Starting with his parents, Joseph Smith and Lucy Mack Smith migrated to America to acquire civil and religious freedom, little did they know one of their very own son’s would go on to lead a very virtuous and religious life. Born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont Joseph Smith Jr. grew up in a large family of eight brothers and sisters. Joseph Smith’s two eldest brothers, Alvin and Hyrum, were his role models. He looked up to his two older brothers and they both had a big impact on Joseph Smith and the religion he would later establish. Growing up, Joseph Smith and his siblings were not taken to church but were exposed to religion through their father in such a way that made them fear God. The film goes on to explain that after moving to Palmyra, New York in 1817, the local preacher voiced his concerns regarding the lack of attendance from the Joseph Smith family to the father, Joseph Smith. At this time, Joseph Smith started to become very intrigued by religion and salvation. Without the sense of security of belonging to a specific church, he started to confide in those around him and asked the difficult questions. To his brother Alvin he asked what he needed to do in order to be saved. In the film, Alvin revealed to Joseph Smith his view: God loves everyone and therefore, does not want to save a select few. Alvin was trying to ease his younger brother’s mind so that he would not have to worry. On the other hand, his preacher explained to him “…if you embrace false doctrine, you can expect coldness and darkness all your life.” Both of which being very different and opposing ideas for anyone to try and decipher, especially at such a young age. From his brother, a person very near and dear to his heart, he would get the message that God wants to save most people and Joseph Smith need not worry. But, from the preacher, an “expert” on religion, fear was instilled and eternal darkness was threatened. Confused and trouble-minded, Joseph Smith continued his search for answers in any way possible. Furthermore, the film reveals exactly how Joseph Smith started his journey in creating the religion, Mormonism. It was not until Joseph Smith came across the Epistle of James that his internal conflict with religion started to unravel itself. While reading through the Bible one day, Joseph Smith came across the passage “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God”. This would become Joseph Smith’s saving grace and...
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